Early adopters of the 2010 VW Touareg will see their cars being delivered from October onwards. And for some reason they will not be hated quite so fiercely as those who’ve ordered a Porsche Cayenne, even though the cars are broadly the same underneath and are, in the view of those with beards, equally reprehensible.
Leaving the matter of planet salvation aside, however, the question remains: is the VW a poor relation to its – admittedly superb to drive – Porsche Cayenne cousin? A drive will tell us.
Which Volkswagen Touareg is this?
The one with the new 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, which at £38,255 is the entry model (the hybrid version is an eye-watering £54,995 – beard-wearing is a premium matter, it seems). But while the 237bhp engine is no green flag carrier, it still returns an alleged 38.2mpg and emits 195g/km, which isn’t horrible and – tellingly – is virtually indistinguishable from the hybrid by the same measures. It’s also got stop/start. Porsche’s equivalent Cayenne hits identical numbers (same engine – no surprise) but sets you back six grand more.
So what’s this hefty SUV like to drive?
Firstly, although ‘hefty’ is still fair comment, at 2174kg the new Touareg is over 200kg lighter than the old Touareg. The car is, they say, 40mm longer yet 20% ‘more efficient’. So they are trying hard.
But two tonnes is still two tonnes, and if you go barrelling into corners you ought to expect it to go all roly-poly. Newsflash: it doesn’t. This chassis, which works well in the Cayenne, is simply amazing here too, allowing the Touareg to corner flat and sharp, with little understeer and no more lateral lean than you might expect in a saloon car.
And the ride is blissful – refined yet sharp – creating an almost alchemic mix of smoothness and feedback from the road, much of which comes to your palms through steering so accurate it’s scary. I’ve just read this back and it sounds sycophantic. Honestly, it’s the truth.
But performance must be modest, surely?
It doesn’t feel modest because this V6 has oodles of torque. There’s 406lb ft kicking in at 2000rpm, which gives a real sense of purpose and urge to the mid-range force. You can feel the car punching its way through the gears, not sharply but with a resonant thrum. Resonance, however, can also be described as ‘whiny vibration’, and the Touareg has oodles of that, too, especially at low speeds. It’s the least likeable thing about the car.
Also less likeable is the eight-speed auto box, which is inclined to get in a bit of a muddle as you increase throttle pressure, making it hard to drive smoothly. A bit of practice sorts it, but you have to concentrate your right foot.
What’s the Touareg like to be inside?
Very nice, although the VW Group hierarchy has caused some confusion. You get the feeling they made a late call to notch down the premium feel in case Porsche got offended. So you get leather and some bits of stray wood mixed with rather mundane switchgear and a nasty gearstick. Luckily, you only occasionally need the latter.
The colour screen is TV sized and dominates the centre of the dash like one of those massive flat-screen tellies you see in the tiny living rooms of bachelor flats. But you can’t miss the info, especially the standard sat-nav.
Good car, bad car?
Oh, good, definitely good. I can’t imagine a better SUV to drive or a package that’s better value overall. VW, in the zone for which it is arguably least famous, has quietly triumphed.
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